Everton respond after disappointing results
At this point in the season Everton need all the points they can get if they wish to stay in contention for a spot in the Europa League. Last week was a litmus test for a squad looking to prove their top-four credentials. Unfortunately a crushing defeat at Anfield followed by a last minute collapse against Manchester United left Everton needing a win to stay in the race for Europe.
Everton responded massively in what would prove to be an up and down match against a resurgent Leicester City side. The first ten minutes of this match were fast paced, high scoring and saw Everton a goal down at home. The Toffees kept their cool and showed resilience, tying up the game and soon after taking the lead and keeping it for the remainder of the game.
This squad has largely struggled against the top five or six teams, but this game showed that Everton are not going down without a fight and are prepared to scrap for every point in their quest to make it to Europe.
Scoring from set pieces
One big positive that can be pulled from Everton performances over the last two weeks has been their ability to score off of set pieces. Between Matthew Pennington’s goal at Liverpool and Phil Jagielka and Romelu Lukaku’s goals against Leicester, Everton have found new ways to put the ball in the net.
This has previously been an area that Everton have struggled to defend, but also struggled to score from. The center back pairing of Ashley Williams and Ramiro Funes Mori, despite their size, have rarely been able to capitalize from set pieces. And aside from Romelu Lukaku, there are few players on this squad capable of giving opposing teams fits in the air.
Enter Phil Jagielka. The previously out of favor defender has been an absolute terror for opposing defenses the last two weeks. The skipper not only set up Pennington’s goal last week, but scored one of his own and contributed to Lukaku’s second of the day. If Everton can continue to diversify their goal scoring, they can be even more dangerous to the opposition.
Despite the win, Everton still look shaky in defence
A win is a win, but injuries have caused Everton to look much more uncertain in defense than they have in previous weeks. Clearly this team is missing Williams and Funes Mori who were out with a suspension and injury respectively. Williams, aside from Idrissa Gueye, has been one of Everton’s best off-season moves and Funes Mori had proven to be a solid partner along side him.
The duo of Jagielka and Pennington looked very shaky in the first half, no better evidenced than by their poor defense of Leicester’s counter attack that lead to Slimani’s goal. Between Pennington’s inexperience and Jagielka’s decline, this game could’ve been much worse had Everton not controlled the ball for much of the game.
Even when Williams returns Everton face the prospect of not having his preferred partner beside him. Clearly the Welshman is at his best with a mobile defender next to him, something Phil Jagielka is not. And while Everton have a somewhat easy schedule for the rest of the year, matches against Chelsea and Arsenal will test their battered defense in new ways.